Seven Days Battles 1862: Lee's Defense of Richmond
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When General Robert E. Lee took command of the Army of Northern Virginia, the Confederacy was in crisis. General McClellan's Union army lay encamped less than ten miles from Richmond, and the Southerners were outnumbered and dispirited. Lee changed all that in a brilliant weeklong campaign. Stuart's reconnaissance in force, immortalised as his ride around McClellan's army, had revealed flaws in McClellan's dispositions. Lee used this intelligence well, and massed his outnumbered force against the Union right flank. On 26 June the Confederates struck, fighting two hard-fought and bloody battles in two days; Mechanicsville (26 June) and Gaine's Mill (27 June). Although the victories were won at a terrible human cost, the ferocity of the Confederate assaults convinced McClellan that he was outnumbered. He duly retreated towards his supply base on the James River. Lee's men pursued, and McClellan was forced to make a fighting retreat, stopping twice to delay his pursuers. Despite two more battles at Frayser's Farm (30 June) and Malvern Hill (1 July), he was unable to keep the Confederates at bay, and the Union army was recalled to Washington. Despite losing a quarter of his army in a week, Lee had saved Richmond, and inflicted a humiliating defeat on the Army of the Potomac. Although other victories would follow, Lee's battles in defence of the Confederate capital were crucial to the survival of the Southern cause, and won him the respect of the fighting men on both sides. Angus Konstam traces the course of this short and bloody campaign, the beginnings of Robert E. Lee's legendary reputation, and the origins of the battle-winning elan of the Army of Northern Virginia.
crossing the Chickahominy. The curtain rose, the stage was prepared for first scene of the tragedy ... " Lee's command post was at Chickahominy Bluff, a ridge located half a mile from the south bank of the river that overlooked Mechanicsville. Firing was heard from the Meadow Bridges to the left, and just over 30 minutes later Confederate troops were seen advancing towards Mechanicsville. "Those are A.P. Hill's men," said Lee, who masked any concern at this unexpected turn of events. He
Seymour's 3rd Brigade of Brigadier General McCall's 3rd Division, part of V Corps. Behind them, on the crest of the hill the main line of defense ran along the crest of the bluff (3), extending from a point a half-mile north of the ford where the Old Church Road crossed Beaver Dam Creek. It ended a half-mile south of this scene, a quarter of a mile south of Ellerson's Mill. In the portion of the Union line shown in this view, the main line was held by the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteers, part of
Morgan 5th US Artillery (Battery A) - Lieutenant Adalbert Ames 5th US Artillery (Battery K) - Captain John R. Smead 3rd Artillery Brigade - Major Albert Arndt 1st Battalion, New York Light Artillery (Battery Otto Diederichs 1st Battalion, New York Light Artillery (Battery Adolph Voegelee 1st Battalion, New York Light Artillery (Battery John Knieriem 1st Battalion, New York Light Artillery (Battery Grimm A) - Captain B) - Captain C) - Captain D) - Captain 4th Artillery Brigade - Major E. R.
attack began. His one advantage is that he had learned from the newspapers that McClellan was unsure of Confederate numbers. This might make him timid enough to avoid attacking Richmond while Lee prepared to spring his trap. The plan was formulated in Lee's "General Order No. 75", drafted on 24June. To summarize the plan, it called for Jackson "to proceed tomorrow from Ashland towards the Slash Church and encamp at some convenient point west of the Central Railroad ... "Branch's Brigade of A.P.
was also a gifted soldier, and President Davis made him a Brigadier General. During the early stages of the Peninsula campaign he commanding the Confederate forces around Yorktown, and his superb deceptions fooled McClellan into thinking Magruder commanded a far larger force than he actually had. Consequently McClellan prepared a Major General James Longstreet (1821-1904) proved his abilities as a senior commander during the campaign, and his attacks at Gaine's Mill and Frayser's Farm were both